Investing in potential: The financial viability of low-fee private schools in South Africa

Key Points:

  • Low-fee private schools are challenged by strict regulatory requirements; limited income sources; school size and land premises logistics. These challenges seriously undermines their financial viability.
  • Independent schools are educating an estimated 250, 000 learners across the country and are increasingly providing access to good quality education where there is insufficient or dysfunctional public schools in disadvantaged communities.
  • The growth of the independent school sector has been fuelled in recent years by the emergence of for-profit and not-for-profit chains of independent schools at all fee levels.
  • For independent schools to be financially viable, the fees of the school cannot be lower than about R11, 700 a year and there needs to be some 600 to 700 learners in every school. State subsidies are also critical along with external investments- which greatly dependent on the quality of teaching and learning in each independent school.
  • The development and expansion of independent schools serving poorer communities in South Africa is a positive trend that needs greater support and a more enabling policy environment.


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